<
>

Somerset's quest for treble stumbles despite Steven Davies' unbeaten 89

Steven Davies notched a half-century Getty Images

Somerset 167 for 5 (Davies 89*) trail Warwickshire 419 (Yates 141, Rhodes 82, Burgess 52) by 252 runs

Such is the romance that has come to be associated with Somerset's quest for their first County Championship in 144 years of history that lovers of cricket are cancelling September holidays in the hope of being at Taunton to witness a doubtless tearful celebration.

Whether it will be worth it remains in the balance. As things stand, the side they will meet in the last fixture of the season, the 2017 winners Essex, who beat them at Chelmsford in June, are in pole position. Four matches remain after this isolated, mid-Blast round, yet Somerset could do without losing ground at this moment.

They might not find it easy to prevent that happening. Having winkled out two important wickets in the final session of the opening day, when Sam Hain and Adam Hose were dismissed before they were able to inflict too much damage, they picked up an early bonus on day two when Rob Yates, whose maiden century had been the thorn in their flesh on Sunday, was out to only the seventh delivery of the morning.

Yet their bowlers failed to build on that, gaining only one extra bonus point and, more importantly in the context of potentially taking the 16 points for a win, allowing Warwickshire, themselves casting anxious glances at the one team behind them in the Division One table, the luxury of passing 400 for only the second time this season.

Then came a pretty torrid start to their reply, encompassing three wickets lost for 15 runs between the eighth over and the 11th, including a first-ball duck for Babar Azam, their Vitality Blast star, on his red-ball debut for the county.

By the close, they had recovered to a degree, thanks in large part to Steven Davies, who showed his adaptability by opening in a rejigged top order and willingness to graft as necessary in finishing 11 runs short of a hundred. Somerset, though, are still 103 runs away from the follow-on target and lost George Bartlett in the penultimate over, a moment of celebration for 19-year-old debutant George Garrett in claiming his maiden first-class wicket.

Jack Brooks had made what they had hoped would be a decisive morning breakthrough as Yates, stretching to drive, edged to gully. When the former Yorkshire seamer followed up by having Tim Ambrose caught behind four overs later to claim the second bowling bonus point in the 102nd over, all looked well.

Helped by a remarkable gully catch by Roelof van der Merwe as Henry Brookes somehow offered him a leading edge as he shaped to clip Jamie Overton to the short Hollies Stand boundary on his leg side - which he had already cleared with a square cut off Brookes - Somerset had the seventh wicket at 338 in the 107th over and were into the Warwickshire tail.

And it did look more like a tail than is customary in a team that generally bats deep, with Oliver Hannon-Dalby making a rare appearance at No. 10 ahead Garrett.

In the event, it was a while before they had a look at either, thanks primarily to Michael Burgess, who made it his business to use the aforementioned short boundary to his advantage whenever the Somerset bowlers gave him the opportunity, hitting 52 off 58 balls in a manner that was very easy on the eye.

He and his captain, Jeetan Patel, added 66 in 13 overs to claim a fourth batting point and take the total beyond 400, to which Hannon-Dalby celebrated his promotion by making his first score in double figures since he giddily hit 11 not out and 13 against the same opponents at Taunton in May. At the other end, young Garrett manfully survived 22 deliveries to mark his maiden first-class innings with a red-inker and two runs.

As if that were not enough to furrow Somerset brows, a positive response in terms of quick runs on the board was rapidly undermined as Tom Abell was bowled shouldering arms and Hannon-Dalby continued to influence the game by gaining the desired reward for bowling into James Hildreth's pads. He then reaped an unexpected bonus when Babar, who has been drafted into Somerset's red-ball team in place of his compatriot Azhar Ali, clipped a legside half-volley direct to midwicket.

Azhar's return to Pakistan for a training camp meant a rejigged top order with Davies opening with Abell. Happily for Somerset, he looked comfortable in the roll from the outset, anchoring a 63-run partnership for the fourth wicket that ended when Tom Banton edged behind off Will Rhodes, who was unlucky during an impressive spell when Tim Ambrose was not quite able to grasp an inside edge offered by Davies on 72.

Somerset 4th innings Partnerships

WktRunsPlayers
1st33SM DaviesTB Abell
2nd8JC HildrethTB Abell
3rd8Babar AzamTB Abell
4th90Babar AzamT Banton
5th31GA BartlettT Banton
6th88DM BessGA Bartlett